Best Online Master’s in Communication Programs of 2021

Earning an advanced communications degree may give you a competitive edge for promotions and executive positions. A concentration can allow you to specialize your expertise.

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by Victoria Leigh
Published on September 13, 2021

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Excellent communication skills apply to a host of career paths. Graduate school provides an advanced study of communications and allows you to seek out job opportunities as a manager, director, or supervisor in marketing, public relations, and other fields.

Consider 10 of the best online master's in communications programs below. After the program rankings, keep reading to uncover further details about this degree, including curriculum content, admission requirements, and potential career paths.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Communication Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
#2 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
#3 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
#4 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
#5 Webster University Saint Louis, MO
#6 Purdue University-Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
#7 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA
#8 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
#9 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY
#10 Mississippi College Clinton, MS

As every business and industry competes for visibility and consumer loyalty, skilled communications professionals are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of public relations and fundraising managers will likely grow 13% between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than average. Jobs for marketing managers will also likely grow 10% in that time, the BLS projects. Market research analyst jobs are anticipated to grow by a staggering 22%.

Although a bachelor's degree satisfies minimum requirements for entry-level positions in these fields, earning a master's can increase your competitiveness in both hiring and promotion decisions.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Communication Programs

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Johns Hopkins University View School Profile Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins offers a completely online, 10-course master of arts in communication degree that typically takes students 12-24 months to complete. The program features six concentration options. Students can choose to focus on applied research in communication, political communication, digital communication, public and media relations, health communication, or corporate and nonprofit communication.

In addition to the six concentrations, students select between two learning tracks — a strategic planning track or a research track. Coursework in the research track includes a thesis.

Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,502 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 12-24 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

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Request more information about this program.

Northwestern University View School Profile Evanston, IL

Northwestern's master of science in communication degree requires eight courses and a capstone for completion. The program's hybrid leadership pathway allows students to complete most of their coursework online, while also attending four in-residence seminars. Learners select desired focus areas based on personal professional experience levels and desired learning opportunities. The institution advises students to enroll in one core course and one elective course per quarter.

Coursework in the hybrid leadership track includes foundations of strategic communications management; current issues in law, technology, and strategy; leading collaboration; and a communication skills practicum.

Northwestern is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Communication
School Status: Private
Tuition: $6,212 per course
Credit Requirements: 8 courses plus a capstone
Program Length: 10 months
Format: Hybrid

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

USC's completely online master of communication management program — offered through the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism — consists of three core courses, a capstone, and four additional courses related to a student's concentration area. Focus areas include communication management, marketing communication, strategic and organizational communication, and market research and analytics.

Students who opt not to pursue a concentration take four general courses in market research, marketing communication, public relations, and strategic and organizational communication to fulfill degree requirements.

USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and Universities Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Communication Management
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,995 per unit
Credit Requirements: 8 courses
Program Length: 16 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum specified
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile Champaign, IL

Illinois' completely online master of science in strategic brand communication — offered as a joint program through the Gies College of Business and the Sandage Department of Advertising — requires 32 credits. Flexible scheduling allows students to complete the curriculum at their own pace, but full-time students can earn their degree in 16 months. The program combines elements of study from business, marketing, and advertising.

Students must maintain a minimum 2.75 GPA for graduation eligibility. The curriculum features prescribed coursework, leaving no room for electives. This program is designed for working professionals. Illinois is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Strategic Brand Communication
School Status: Public
Tuition: $898 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 16 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

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Request more information about this program.

Webster University View School Profile Saint Louis, MO

Webster's School of Communication offers a master of arts in communications management, which requires 36 credits for completion. Students can finish all coursework online. Students who do not meet the required prerequisite coursework can qualify for provisional admittance but must achieve a minimum "B" grade in both required prerequisite courses before advancing to candidacy.

Core coursework includes strategic communications, media and culture, and media production management. Learners also complete a seminar in media. Students choose a minimum of five applicable electives to complete their degree.

Webster is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communications Management
School Status: Private
Tuition: $780 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Purdue University-Main Campus View School Profile West Lafayette, IN

Purdue's Brian Lamb School of Communication offers a completely online master of science in communication degree. In order to graduate, participants must complete a total of 30 credits. The program includes five concentrations: a general track, strategic communication and public relations, integrated communication and advertising, communication and leadership, and health communication. Specific courses vary depending on a student's degree track.

The university received the John R. Bourne Outstanding Online Program Award in 2017 — awarded by the Online Learning Consortium — for its online course offerings. Purdue is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Communication
School Status: Public
Tuition: $420 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 12-20 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Louisiana at Monroe View School Profile Monroe, LA

ULM offers a master of arts in communication with a concentration in strategic communication. Students can earn this degree completely online. An assigned major professor helps guide each student's individual plan of study to meet required graduation requirements. Learners who fail to meet top-level admission requirements can qualify for provisional admission based on the merit of their entire application packet, as determined by the Graduate Admission and Retention Committee of the Department of Communication.

Core program requirements include 21 credits, with the remaining nine credits dedicated to electives, an exit project option, or a thesis option. The exit project option includes a three-credit professional communication project, while the thesis option features six credits of thesis development.

ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication
School Status: Public
Tuition: $695 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Sam Houston State University View School Profile Huntsville, TX

SHSU offers a completely online master of arts in communication studies degree through its Department of Communication Studies. Core coursework includes statistical methods for communication, advanced interpersonal communication, advanced family communication, and advanced communication theory.

Participants complete six elective courses to round out degree requirements. Coursework is designed for aspiring doctoral students who plan to continue their education at SHSU. Learners develop advanced communication, research, and writing skills. They also delve into statistical and probabilistic analysis. Students can transfer in up to six eligible credits.

SHSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication Studies
School Status: Public
Tuition: $320 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Marist College View School Profile Poughkeepsie, NY

Marist's completely online master of arts in integrated marketing communication degree features 30 credits of coursework. Class highlights include principles of integrated marketing communication, brand management, global consumer insights, and analytical tools for decision-making. Students also complete an integrated marketing communication capstone .

Program flexibility allows students to complete the required coursework in as little as three semesters or as long as three years. Students develop a critical understanding of branding, social media, advertising, digital marketing, communication, and public relations.

Marist is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication
School Status: Private
Tuition: $850 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 3 semesters
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Mississippi College View School Profile Clinton, MS

MC's Department of Communication offers a master of science in communication that features seven concentration options, including journalism, theater, professional communication in health services, and public relations and corporate communications.

Students can complete applied communication generalist, professional communication in health services, and professional communication in sports options pathways entirely online, whereas the other options are available in a hybrid format. Students must earn a "B" or higher in all classes to meet graduation requirements.

MC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Communication
School Status: Private
Tuition: $625 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online or hybrid, depending on the concentration

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE, NTE, or GMAT required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

East Carolina University View School Profile Greenville, NC

ECU's College of Fine Arts and Communication offers a completely online master of arts in communication degree. Students must complete 30 credits to graduate. The curriculum includes six credits of core courses, 12 credits of electives, and a thesis or nonthesis program completion option. Students who opt for the nonthesis option complete a nine-credit capstone project.

Students can pursue a concentration in health communication or strategic communication. To apply, individuals must submit a resume, a statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation. ECU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication
School Status: Public
Tuition: $230 per credit (in-state); $880 per credit (out of state)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Liberty's School of Communication and the Arts provides a completely online master's in communication degree that features 33 credits of coursework. Class highlights include interpersonal communication in the marketplace, problem-solving and collaborative communication, strategic storytelling, and effective social media.

Students can transfer up to half of the required credits into the program. The completely online, eight-week courses provide flexibility for working professionals. Specific coursework prepares students to assume leadership roles in a professional environment.

Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master's in Communication
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565 per credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 1 year
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

University of Denver View School Profile Denver, CO

DU provides a master of arts in communication management degree with a concentration in marketing communication through its University College. The program features 48 credits and 12 courses. The institution requires that students complete a student success course prior to proceeding with the course curriculum. Students finish the program by completing one of two capstone projects.

Students can choose from six concentrations, including learning and development, organizational development, marketing communication, public relations, organizational communication, and user experience strategy. DU allows prospective students to take a course in the program prior to applying.

DU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication Management
School Status: Private
Tuition: $744 per quarter credit
Credit Requirements: 48 quarter credits
Program Length: 18 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Spring Arbor University View School Profile Spring Arbor, MI

SAU's completely online master of arts in strategic communication and leadership degree requires 30 credits. The curriculum includes three basic courses and seven building-block courses, each encompassing three credits.

Basic coursework includes communication as calling, communication theory and worldview, and research methods and application. Building-block courses include interpersonal communication, digital media strategies, group and public communication, advertising and public relations, communication leadership, writing for results, and conflict resolution.

Each student in the program receives a dedicated mentor and graduates with an e-portfolio that can be used in future professional endeavors. SAU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership
School Status: Private
Tuition: $740 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 18 months
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Eastern Illinois University View School Profile Charleston, IL

To earn EIU's online master of arts in communication and leadership, students must complete a total of 33 credits. The program's rolling admissions schedules provides flexibility for working professionals. Enrollees have some control of their curriculum, choosing 11 classes from 14 options. Courses cover topics like communication ethics, small group and team communication, and digital communication.

Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. To apply, applicants must submit a statement of goals, a writing sample, a resume, and three letters of recommendation. EIU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Communication Leadership
School Status: Public
Tuition: $320 per credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Communications Program?

Bachelor's degrees aim to provide students with comprehensive foundational knowledge and skills in their chosen major. Master's degrees offer a narrower approach to academics, zeroing in on a specific area within a larger discipline — strategic communications, corporate communications, or marketing communications, for example.

The core curriculum content you encounter during your online master's in communication will vary according to its focus. Students in one program may take an organizational communication course, while others work through a brand management class. Available concentrations, discussed below, provide further opportunity for customization of your degree.

Regardless of focus or concentration, every master's in communication works toward similar overarching goals. Graduates are prepared to enter the workforce with the knowledge and abilities required to meet communication challenges, craft and deliver effective messages, and adapt consistently in a changing digital landscape.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Communications Program?

Theory of Communication

This course introduces students to modern theories of communication, including persuasion, public relations, interpersonal communication, and mass communication. Students learn how theory is applied to research, practice, and literature, as well as how to apply theory to their own interests in the field.

Strategic and Corporate Communication

This course introduces students to principles of strategic and corporate communication. Topics may include evaluating and developing communication campaigns, identifying and targeting audiences, and communicating with stakeholders. Students gain a solid understanding of how to implement effective communication campaigns and media strategies in business.

Digital Media Storytelling

Students in a digital media storytelling class learn how to assemble engaging material using digital media tools. Coursework includes readings and hands-on assignments to discuss narrative and persuasive styles; examine theoretical issues; and hone skills such as crafting stories for online platforms and social media.

Communication Research Methods

This course teaches students how to find, read, interpret, evaluate, and apply scientific research to solve problems in the field of communications. Common topics include effective use of library scholarship; interpretation of qualitative and quantitative findings; and the significance of research methods such as focus groups, case studies, and surveys.

Capstone or Thesis

The majority of online master's programs in communication require students to complete a culminating experience. Depending on the program, this requirement may be satisfied by a capstone project or a thesis that integrates theory, research, hands-on experience, and real-world application.

Related Master's in Communications Degree Concentrations

Political Communication

A concentration in political communication prepares graduates for careers as media consultants, campaign communications managers, social media strategists, or public affairs strategists. Coursework commonly covers speechwriting, digital political strategy, audience engagement and mobilization, and communication ethics.

Digital Communication/Strategy

A concentration in digital communication or digital strategy provides students with the foundational knowledge required to succeed in careers focused on online marketing, audience engagement, and customer conversion. Hands-on assignments and coursework cover topics such as creation of compelling copy, lead generation, branding, web development, and ethics.

Marketing Communication

A concentration in marketing communication prepares students for careers in advertising, public relations, and sales. Students learn to develop and create integrated marketing campaigns with strategic objectives, clearly defined audiences, and measurable ROI results. Brand management, organizational communication, and leadership may also be discussed.

Public Relations

This concentration provides a comprehensive overview of the steps required to execute a public relations campaign, including pitching, planning, and budgeting. Students may also take courses on crisis communication, ethics and corporate social responsibility, and strategic writing. Graduates are prepared for careers as public relations directors, brand ambassadors, and event coordinators.

Health Communication

A concentration in health communication prepares graduates for careers as health communications specialists in a number of industries, including government, private healthcare, insurance, medical device manufacturing, and healthcare publishing. Coursework covers health policy and advocacy, medical journalism, science writing, and public health administration.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Communications Program?

Prior to beginning any master's program, applicants must graduate with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. For an online master's in communication, students do not typically need a related undergraduate major, although schools may prefer transcripts that show completion of relevant coursework. A few select schools offer dual BA/MA programs.

A majority of master's degrees either prefer or require applicants to demonstrate a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA on undergraduate coursework. Depending on the school, a minimum requirement may apply to the applicant's cumulative GPA or only to the grade achieved in the last 60 semester credits (two years) of their bachelor's.

To better evaluate the abilities of applicants, some schools request or require the submission of standardized test scores. Minimum scores may not be explicitly mentioned in admission guidelines. Depending on the school, you may qualify for an exemption from this requirement based on your undergraduate GPA.

Understandably, graduate schools seek out prospective communications students with strong writing skills. Many admissions guidelines include a requirement for an essay, writing sample, and/or personal statement. These provide applicants with an opportunity to address their qualifications and to discuss how the program aligns with their personal and professional goals.

While not a common entrance requirement for online master's in communication programs, some schools seek applicants with relevant employment history. Prior internships, paid positions, or volunteer work in communications are valuable for applicants who completed their undergraduate study in an unrelated discipline.


What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Communications?

Graduates with an online master's in communication commonly pursue leadership positions in a number of industries, including business and marketing, government and political communication, journalism and media, and healthcare. Individuals with less interest in a corporate work environment may consider completing a doctorate to work as a postsecondary educator.

Licensure is not typically required to pursue employment or advancement in communication. Rather, years of experience and proven results lead to upward mobility. However, those seeking employment as a communications teacher in a high school will need to satisfy state-specific requirements for teaching certification.


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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Communication Programs

What can I do with a master's in communications?

Completing an online master's in communications results in advanced, transferable skills that allow professionals to pursue work in business, politics, journalism and media, and healthcare. A few potential job titles for graduates include marketing manager, market research analyst, human resource manager, and public relations manager.

How much can you make with a master's in communications?

Income rates for communications professionals can vary widely according to industry, employer, job title, experience, and geographic location. The BLS provides the following 2020 data on median salaries for popular communications careers nationwide: $141,490 (marketing manager), $118,430 (public relations manager), $67,120 (writers and authors).

Is communications a good career?

Communication intersects with and impacts everything — individual personal choices, consumer habits, global events. Of course, what makes a "good career" is highly subjective, but in a field as broad as communication, you can pursue a range of opportunities with excellent pay and potential for job growth.

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